Meek Mill, a Rick Ross protégé and Maybach Music signee, is probably best known to the general public – outside of his native Philly – for dating Nicki Minaj, his legal trouble, and getting ether’d (twice) by Drake. But his inspirational “Dreams & Nightmares” has been in heavy rotation on my Spotify for years now. The track, which mixes bravado/braggadocio with tales from growing up in Philly and the struggles Meek has overcome, is what really made me take notice of Meek Mill. “Stay Woke,” from his recent Legends of the Summer EP, is a perfect follow-up to “Dreams & Nightmares.”

“Stay Woke” is the first track released by Meek Mill after his latest stint in prison and he brings the attitude of a wizened veteran to the track, rather than a young upstart. Unlike “Dreams & Nightmares,” Meek sets his sights here on issues of systemic racism and institutionalized prejudice. He still mixes in personal details, which add weight to his critique (“Coke fumes in the air, mama holding on that pipe tight / And you catchin’ contact, but never mind that”), but his sights are larger than just his immediate surroundings. Meek, rather than focusing on his own gripes with the system, shows wisdom in acknowledging that it’s not just that he caught a bad rap, but that the system itself is rigged against African Americans:

It’s amazin’, this environment we was raised in
On them papers, one mistake and I’m gettin’ caged in
You gotta feel me, feel like the system tryna kill me
Got arrested and the charges F1 for popping wheelies, stay woke

F1 here, refers to a first-degree felony (the highest level of charge other than murder), and Meek is pointing out how he was slapped with that charge for pulling wheelies on a dirt bike in NYC. Certainly not the smartest move when you’re already on probation, but worthy of a first-degree felony? Come on! As Miguel aptly summarizes on the hook: “It was designed for us to fail / We still prevail through the hell.”

Other Notable Lyrics

  • We scream, “Black Lives Matter,” but we still toting ladders
    Watching our own brothers trying to get at us
    Dreams get shattered when a scene full of crackers
    And they charge you with some shit you ain’t do
    You like, “what happened?”
    We go get lawyers to say shit, we don’t know how to talk
    They told us to hate each other before we learn how to walk
    Mama taught you how to fight, fight, before she taught you how to write, right
    And daddy locked down in the cell, can’t kiss you night, night
    Monsters under the bed every night, feel like it’s fright night
  • How can I pledge allegiance to the flag
    When they killin’ all our sons, all our dads?
    I come from a place, when you kill your own brother you can brag
    Like he got bodies, but that’s a fad, no, that’s a fact